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Underweight Tied to Higher Death Risk in All Asian Groups

But high body mass index not related to increased risk of mortality in some Asian populations

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Among all Asian populations, underweight is associated with a substantially increased risk of death, but the excess death risk related to a high body mass index (BMI) is seen only among East Asians, according to the results of a large pooled analysis published in the Feb. 24 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Wei Zheng, M.D., Ph.D., of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and colleagues gathered data on BMI and mortality in 120,700 deaths out of more than 1.1 million subjects from 19 cohorts in Asia to study the association between BMI and risk of death in a non-European population.

In East Asians, including Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans, the researchers found the lowest risk of death in those with a BMI between 22.6 and 27.5 kg/m², with risk of death increasing for higher or lower BMI. There was a similar U-shaped association between BMI and risks of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other causes. Among Indians and Bangladeshis, there was a higher risk of death in those with a BMI of 20 kg/m² or below but no increased risk of death associated with a high BMI.

"Underweight was associated with a substantially increased risk of death in all Asian populations. The excess risk of death associated with a high BMI, however, was seen among East Asians but not among Indians and Bangladeshis" the authors write.

One author disclosed being an employee of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

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